Then they asked her, “So, what happens when you try to play with the other little Kishes?”
“They want to play what they want to play—not what I want to play,” said Kish Loukish.
“And what do they want to play?” asked her parents.
Kish Loukish looked down, and didn’t say anything.
After a minute, they said, gently, “Kish Loukish, what do you do when we ask you a question?”
“Answer,” said Kish Loukish, very softly.
“That’s right,” said her parents, still gently. “Now, what do the other little Kishes want to play?”
Kish Loukish thought. She knew that she could either tell her parents the truth or tell them a lie.
She remembered what her parents always said: We will never lie to you, and you must never lie
to us. And she knew if she told them a lie, she would feel awful. Still, telling them the truth wasn’t
going to feel very good either. But she knew she had to.
“I don’t know,” she said, very softly still, and still looking down.
“Why don’t you know?” they asked, even though they already knew.
Kish Loukish didn’t want to tell them, and she felt squirmy and her stomach felt yucky. But she
told the truth again.
“Because I’ve never asked them,” she said, so softly her parents could barely hear her.
Finally they said, “Do you know how we like for you to try new things to eat?”
Kish Loukish nodded. Just yesterday they had asked her to try niftarsh, which looked gross to her.
She finally ate a little and said it was OK but she would much rather eat bleez. Her parents said
she could have some bleez when she finished all her niftarsh.
“We’d like you to try—just like trying new food. If you don’t try something, you’ll never know if you
like it or not. OK?”
“OK,” said Kish Loukish. She said “OK” in a light, easy voice, as if it was no big deal, but her insides
were all bunched up. The truth was, she was afraid of the other little Kishes. She didn’t know
why, except that they were loud and rough and did things she didn’t understand. Now she was
going to have to try to play with them, because she’d told her parents she would, and no matter
how bad the other little Kishes might be, nothing would be as bad as letting her parents down.
That night, Kish Loukish lay awake for a while, imagining how it would go when she tried to play
with the other little Kishes. Would they be nice? Would they be mean? Did they play with
Kemmits too, or were Kemmits only for her?
Kish Loukish woke up early the next morning, thinking about what she had to do that day. She
couldn’t eat much at kyerng. She even left some of her bleez. Her parents pinched her point
fondly and sent her off to the Blak for her lessons. She loved going to the Blak and sitting quietly,
learning, but she dreaded when Kish Bobkish dismissed them for playtime. Then she would have
to do it.
Lessons seemed to go by much faster than usual, and playtime came. Kish Loukish had decided
during lessons that she was going to ask Kish Mapkish, who was perched right next to her, to play
with her at playtime, and she had practiced asking her in her head over and over. As soon as
Kish Bobkish told them to go play, she turned to Kish Mapkish, but Kish Mapkish was already
laughing about something with the Kish on the other side of her. Kish Loukish was so embarrassed
that she splotched.
Actually, that only happened in Kish Loukish’s imagination. But in the time it took her to imagine
splotching, and having all the other little Kishes laugh at her, Kish Mapkish and all the other little
Kishes had already raced off to play.
All through playtime, Kish Loukish played every game she knew with the Kemmits. She tried and
tried to have a really good time, but the whole time, there was a little voice inside her head
reminding her that she was not doing what her parents had asked her to do.
Even after lessons started again, and even though Kish Bobkish was teaching them about the
Near Planets—Kish Loukish’s favorite subject—she couldn’t get that quiet little bad feeling to go
away. She kept thinking about going home, and what her parents would ask her, and what she
would say, and she felt yucky.
That night, when she couldn’t eat all her bleez again, her parents knew something wasn’t right.
“How was the Blak today?” they asked. “Fine,” said Kish Loukish, but she didn’t say it as if she
meant it. “What did you do at playtime?” they asked. Kish Loukish felt her insides fall, and for a
moment she didn’t say anything, but then she just blurted it out. “I was going to ask Kish Mapkish
to play with me but then I thought I was splotching and that everyone was laughing at me but I
really wasn’t but then everyone was already gone and playing without me so I just—I just played
with the Kemmits. I’ll try harder tomorrow I promise.”
“We know you will,” said Kish Bonkish. “But don’t worry about it. You’ll do fine.”
“But what if I don’t?” said Kish Loukish. “What if nobody wants to play with me? What if nobody
“That’s a chance you have to take, Loukish. Just as when you play outside, you might fall and
bend your point. And there might be some Kishes who aren’t nice to you, because there are
some Kishes who just aren’t very nice. But some of them will like you, and you’ll like them, and
you’ll be happy to be friends with them. Don’t be afraid to try, OK?”
“OK,” said Kish Loukish. She didn’t want to say out loud that she was so afraid of getting hurt that
she didn’t want to try. She knew that she had to anyway, and she trusted her parents. Then she
stopped thinking about it, because she felt Kish Bonkish’s long nyerk tickling her under the table.
The next day at playtime, Kish Loukish just did it before she had time to think about it. She looked
right over at Kish Mapkish and said “Do you want to play with me?” And Kish Mapkish looked
happy and said “Sure. Can Kish Bapkish play too?” “Sure,” said Kish Loukish. “What are we
going to play?” asked Kish Mapkish. “Are we going to play Darngebooz? I love Darngebooz!”
said Kish Bapkish.
“What’s Darngebooz?” asked Kish Loukish. “You don’t know how to play Darngebooz?”
exclaimed Kish Bapkish, very surprised. “No,” said Kish Loukish. For a few seconds everyone was
quiet and Kish Loukish was starting to feel very yucky. But then Kish Mapkish said, “It’s easy. We’ll
show you, and if you don’t like it we’ll play something else.”
“OK,” said Kish Loukish.
“OK,” said Kish Mapkish, taking charge. “One Kish is the Darngebooz. The Darngebooz can’t go
anywhere, and has to close her eyes, but can stretch her nyerks out as much as she wants. The
other Kishes try to get close enough to the Darngebooz to poke her point with their nyerks without
getting grabbed first. If you get grabbed, you’re the Darngebooz. I’ll be the Darngebooz first if
“OK,” said Kish Loukish. “OK,” said Kish Bapkish.
Kish Loukish and Kish Bapkish tried and tried ‘til they got dizzy, but Kish Mapkish was too fast; they
couldn’t poke her point, and as Kish Bapkish bounced out of the way, Kish Mapkish grabbed Kish
Loukish with a triple spiral loop and tied her up tight.
“Ack!” said Kish Loukish.
For one horrible moment, Kish Loukish waited for them to laugh at her. But Kish Mapkish said, “ It’s
OK—everyone gets caught the first time, and I’ve been playing Darngebooz for a long time.”
“Yes,” said Kish Bapkish. “And usually she catches ME, so . . . “ but she didn’t finish.
“I don’t like this game,” said Kish Loukish. “Can we play something else?”
“Sure,” said Kish Mapkish. “What do you want to play?”
“Hmm,” said Kish Loukish, thinking.
“I know!” said Kish Bapkish. “We can play—“
“Ssshh,” said Kish Mapkish. “Let’s let her decide.”
“OK,” said Kish Bapkish. They waited for Kish Loukish to answer. Kish Loukish wanted to play
Hagkraken, but she was scared to say it out loud.
Finally Kish Loukish said, “Let’s play Hagkraken.”
“What’s that?” asked Kish Bapkish.
“It’s where the—it’s where you turn into scary monsters and chase me, and I fight you with my
“What’s a Magfarcer?” asked Kish Bapkish.
“It’s a big bent stick that shoots out lightning,” said Kish Loukish.
“Oh,” said Kish Bapkish.
“That sounds fun,” said Kish Mapkish.
So Kish Loukish told them to close their eyes, while she went and hid.
“Count to dyert and then you can open your eyes,” said Kish Loukish.
“. . . berk, twasef, DYERT!” said Kish Mapkish. “Ready or not here we come!”
Kish Mapkish and Kish Bapkish changed themselves into the scariest monsters they could and
went to look for Kish Loukish.
But Kish Mapkish and Kish Bapkish didn’t fall down when she zapped them with her Magfarcer.
They kept waving their nyerks and making scary monster noises.
“No no NO!” said Kish Loukish. “You’re supposed to fall down when I zap you with my
“Oh,” said Kish Mapkish. “Sorry.”
“I don’t like this game,” said Kish Bapkish. “Let’s—“
But she couldn’t finish what she was saying, because just then Kish Bobkish called them all back
“They didn’t fall down when I zapped them with my Magfarcer,” said Kish Loukish that night,
between small mouthfuls of niftarsh.
“Maybe they didn’t want to,” said Kish Palkish.
“But they’re SUPPOSED to,” said Kish Loukish. “The Kemmits ALWAYS do.”
“Well, they’re not Kemmits—they’re Kishes,” said Kish Bonkish.
Kish Loukish didn’t say anything. She was trying to decide whether she liked playing with Kishes.
“Do you like playing with Kishes?” asked Kish Palkish.
“I don’t know yet,” said Kish Loukish.
“Well, that’s OK,” said Kish Bonkish.
“I still like playing with the Kemmits,” said Kish Loukish.
“Well, you can do both, you know,” said Kish Palkish.
“And we’re proud of you for trying,” said Kish Bonkish.
“Yes, we are,” said Kish Palkish.